The murder of Ori Ansbacher is one of those cases where one has a hard time wrapping their head around the absolute brutality, evil and banality in which someone could harm another person.

It seems that is exactly the reason it was so important for the Shin Bet security agency, which along with the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Police was tasked with the investigation immediately following the discovery of Ansbacher’s body, to quickly capture the killer. The violence perpetrated against the young woman, whose only sin was her decision to take a walk in the woods, along with the findings at the crime scene, served to further motivate those involved in tracking down the murderer.

Indeed, the killer was located very quickly, the result of the forensic findings in the field and the Shin Bet’s technological and operational abilities. He was found in an abandoned building in Ramallah where he had escaped to after spending a few hours hiding out in a mosque next to his work.

The investigation into the killer, Arafat Irfaiya, stalled because he required medical treatment for injuries sustained during his arrest.

From the initial details, it seems the entire incident unfolded at random. While the murderer did leave his home in Hebron with a knife—not an unusual detail in and of itself—he only decided to harm Ansbacher upon encountering her. As of Saturday night, the Shin Bet has been unable to determine whether Irfaiya intended to murder Ansbacher as soon as he saw her or if he was dragged into the act. The Shin Bet has also yet to ascertain whether Ansbacher’s murder was the result of a criminal attack that went wrong or whether she was killed simply for being Jewish.

Past incidents have shown that this likely a combination of factors; a criminal incident that is tied to a nationalistic motive.

At 29, the killer is relatively older, and he has a security past. He was detained in 2009 after exhibiting suspicious behavior in the vicinity of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. A search of his belongings uncovered a knife, and he was sentenced to a few months in prison. There is no information that points to Irfaiya having engaged in criminal or terrorist activity following his release. The Shin Bet will now try to ascertain whether or not he belongs to a terrorist organization, although the details of the case thus far indicate he acted alone.

Ansbacher is the first terrorist victim of 2019. In recent months, security forces have escalated their activity in Judea and Samaria and the Jerusalem periphery following an uptick in attacks. But along with the relative calm that has been achieved, this has also led to security forces being spread thin. Yet it is doubtful if more expansive activity could have prevented this fatal encounter.

Two comments:

  1. Within the framework of its legitimate request to issue a gag order on the murder investigation, the police also asked not to disclose the victim’s name for an extended amount of time. This is an example of the courts being a little too eager to approve these gag orders often without good reason.
  2. A plethora of horrific theories on what Arafiah subjected the young woman to have been disseminated on social media as a result of the gag order on the details of the case. The murder itself was difficult enough without there being a need to invent details the likes of which could have been taken out of a snuff film. A little bit of restraint, in particular under these circumstances, wouldn’t hurt.

Yoav Limor is a veteran Israeli journalist and columnist for Israel Hayom.